Preventable ladder falls causing severe injuries
Trauma specialists are urging Victorians to take care cleaning gutters and preparing the home for Christmas as the number of patients arriving at The Alfred with life-threatening injuries caused by ladder falls continues to rise.
Gary Mann remembers every second of his six metre fall that left him with fractured ribs, a fractured shoulder and elbow, kidney damage, and liver and pancreas lacerations.
He was working as an electrician on semi-polished concrete floor when he asked his colleague, who was supporting the ladder, to step away and check on a light switch.
“The ladder immediately slipped out at the base, and I came down on my chest and stomach on top of the ladder. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t breathe,” Mr Mann said.
Gary was taken to The Alfred where he underwent surgery, followed by recovery in the ICU and on the ward. But 10 months after his accident Gary is still not able to return to full-time work.
Senior Clinical Trauma Research Fellow, Dr Helen Ackland, says 90 percent of ladder accidents occur at home, and can result in life-changing injuries.
“Most of the patients we see are men aged over 50 years,” Dr Ackland said. “They often think of climbing a ladder as a benign thing to do and don’t think about the serious consequences such as traumatic brain injury and spinal injury.”
Gary is now focused on educating ladder users about safety precautions, which include wearing a helmet, always having someone hold the base and using non-slip devices.
“Don’t take a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude,” he said. “The attitudes to safety around heights, especially when it comes to men, need to change.”
In 2017, The Alfred saw a spike in ladder fall admissions, especially in December when the number of patients doubled. This year the hospital has received more than 225 ladder fall patients (to the end of October), including 18 with significant head injuries and 12 who injured their spines.